Board has public hearing on CDBG funding

Published 4:46 pm Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Supervisors Anthony Hales wanted to know if a Community Development Block Grant that the Pearl River County Board of Supervisors is seeking could be used for community housing.

Hales asked his question at a public hearing on the grant at the board meeting Monday morning.

Jason Hicks, an engineer for Dungan Engineering who is helping with the grant application, said this grant is to be used to help complete funding for the new Chimney Square building project in Picayune. Hicks said that although some past CDBG grants were used for housing projects, the recent grants are strictly for repairing blights and slums, and that this particular grant is for property that was destroyed during Hurricane Katrina.

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Hales pointed out that the advertisement that was run for the hearing stated that the grants were to be used “to benefit low to moderate income persons,” and said that the wording of the advertisement should be changed to be less misleading.

“I want it to be fully understood that the county is not receiving money that is eligible to benefit homeowners that they (the homeowners) are not getting,” Hales said.

Hicks said that the advertising comes directly from the federal government and cannot be changed without risk of losing the grant. Hicks acknowledged that the wording was misleading, but said that it must be used per government regulations. Hicks said the grants for individuals come through the HOME program.

The board asked Gary Chamblee of Benchmark Construction about construction specifications for the county jail after the escape of two convicts last week who removed a cinder block from beneath a window.

“The grouting of the reinforced block for spaces less than two inches was a fine grout, and spaces two inches or larger in both horizontal directions was supposed to be coarse,” Chamblee said.

Les Dungan of Dungan Engineering said he was told the plans called for 2,500 pound concrete and number 5 rebar on “the section of the wall that enclosed prisoners”.

Chamblee made a phone call to Jim Reynolds, who was the superintendent of construction for the jail project, and asked Reynolds if the specifications that Dungan mentioned were met.

Reynolds, who spoke to the board via speakerphone, said, “Everything we did was above and beyond what was called for.”

When Chamblee asked him if a technique other than concrete could have been used under the windows, Reynolds said he believed everything was concreted in, and that the jail was built according to the plans.

Dungan said the next step will be to find out if the plans were changed during construction.

“I want to find out what the problem is, and if we did something wrong, we need to fix it,” Chamblee said.

Chief Deputy Julie Flowers said there are other areas in jail walls that are now being discovered where prisoners have been causing damage, citing areas around shower heads as one example.

Hales asked County Attorney Buddy McDonald if there is a law under which inmates can be charged with destruction of public property, in order to deter the inmates from causing such damage.

McDonald said the inmates can be charged with malicious mischief, and if the damage is $500 or more, the charge is considered a felony, which would add jail time to an inmate’s sentence.

Dungan updated the board on several road projects within the county, including work to be done on Ridge Road. The project will reroute and reconstruct the road from in front of Wal-Mart to Mississippi 607.

Dungan said a striping and signing project started this past Wednesday to restripe and replace signs on several roads in the county. The project began in the Picayune area and will make its way north through the county.

Another project which Dungan has submitted to state aid for approval will include an overlay of Progress Road and parts of West Union road east of the interstate, and resealing portions of Springhill Road, Hilt Fornea Road, John Amacker Road, and Old Camp Road. Dungan said authorization should be received from the state aid office later this month.

In other business, the board:

— Accepted personnel changes from the Sheriff’s Department, Road Department, and the Tax Office.

— Authorized Board President Bettye Stockstill to sign a letter to Gov. Haley Barbour requesting that the 100 percent match for the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program be continued rather than a reduction to a 75 percent match.

— Authorized payments numbers seven and eight for courthouse roof repair in the amounts of $32,610.60 and $59,583.60.

— Approved Larry Davis’ appointment of Rita Cooley to replace Katherine Ladner on the hospital board.

The board recessed until 9 a.m. Monday, Sept. 17.